FIRST Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nuhru in his ‘Tryst of Destiny’ to his country’s Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1947, spoke to the representatives of his nation thusly: “We have to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India….”
What one gets from that is that everyone in a nation has to give his or her dreams for the country. So what is our dream for Nigeria?
Nothing seems to thrill Nigerians more, these days, than chants of war and alerts of impending war.
It seems everybody responds enthusiastically, if not eagerly to such news items to the extent that I am beginning to deem myself abnormal for not finding incentives to be impressed by those reports.
Irrespective of the fact that there are many among the people I revere or even look up to, who lead and chorus the war alerts, I shudder at how such a grave issue has evolved into the norm across country. Though it has become the trend now, I believe, it should not have been so because the thought of war should send chills of fear and goose pimples to people who understand the real meaning of the word ‘war’ beyond what the dictionary defines it to be.
Realistically, ‘war’ connotes free rein of killings, deaths, hunger, anomie and descent to a banana republic where rule of brute and jungle justice hold sway.
War is a justified situation for extreme privation, brutality and lack of law and order in society. It is a situation of odious extremities, uprisings, widespread disruption and attacks. Hence, people who probe the weight of meaning in words would argue convincingly that there is nothing like a ‘civil’ war. War is war. Its underlined traits are destructions, deprivations and deaths. Nobody should go into it when he or she can avoid it.
All over Nigeria, the talk of wars is now bandied like vogue concept, without recourse to the collossal import of the word. Indeed, the root of the war calls is not insignificant. There is no smoke without fire.
Currently, a huge smog of factors that have ruined many nations are swhirling over Nigeria like thick clouds beckoning thunder. They are too many to count. From overwhelming insecurity to injustice to inequitable distribution of common wealth, high rate of unemployment, devastating poverty, hunger and spread of resilient diseases, the list of oddities is long. Tension and high partisanship in the nations’ politics also muddle things up badly.
Worse still, a general sense of deliberate denial of appointment, opportunities, incentives and ‘sense of belonging’ to people of some sections of the country by the federal government stirs a widespread disdain, if phobia, of the state as it is run currently.
Matters of disgust with the Nigerian nation by her citizens come to a nasty head with the vacuous response of the country’s security and law enforcement agencies to an unprecedented rise in terror groups’ onslaught; kidnapping for ransom; banditry and reported armed Fulani herdsmen attacks on farming communities. The latter makes many angry with not just President Muhammadu Buhari. Not only because they expected protection of all citizens from his government but given the fact that he is of Fulani nativity. The perceived treatment of criminal herdsmen with kid’s glove comes across as undeserved favouritism.
Currently, the quit notice served herdsmen in Ekiti and Oyo States and the rumbles from it; the tension in Orlu Imo State, Benue and Ogun States are direct results of the herders’ unwelcome activities in host communities and the perception that federal government-controlled security and law enforcement agencies protect them.
Members of the communities and larger ethnic aggregations are now resisting the herdsmen a la self-protection, resistant militia and tribal activism. The land is boiling. There are reports of open armed fights.
Opinion holders, from bodies of Christians, Bishops, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka among others, have raised the alarm that Nigeria may be heading for a war. The presidency has equally urged against ethnic and religious crisis.
Even the vouchsafe response of state apparatchiks to dire insecurity issues, particularly the herdsmen menace in host communities is such a grave error of governance and affront, should other troubles of the ‘barely working’ 107-year-old Nigerian aggregation be compared alongside, they cannot be worth the calls for war.
When Nigeria’s challenges since her independence from Britain’s Colonial rule in October 1, 1960 are factored into the discourse, the internal war she fought with the attempted –breakaway defunct Biafra Republic, July 1967 to January 1970, comes up as a major cause of drawback from which the nations has not recovered. Thereafter, she has continued to suffer from several fits of religious, ethnic and political crises.
Should another war come, what would be of Nigeria and all of her 200 million citizens? How will the Sub-Sahara Africa be when the one-fifth of a billion people pours into neighbouring countries as refugees?
Indeed when the urge for war besieges people, they are heady, stubborn and deaf. They hear nothing and see no other resolution in the horizon but war.
Speaking to his United States of America’s soldiers in England during the World War II, the U.S. field commander, Gen. Gorge S. Patton was full of war airs. He pumped his officers and men, full, thusly, on May 17, 1944:
“Men, this stuff some sources sling around about America wanting to stay out of the war and not wanting to fight is a lot of baloney! Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. America loves a winner. America will not tolerate a loser. American despises a coward; Americans play to win. That’s why America has never lost and never will lose a war.”
“You are not all going to die. Only two per cent of you, right here today, would be killed in a major battle.”
“Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all of us. And every man is scared in his first action. If he says he’s not, he’s a goddamn liar. Some men are cowards, yes, but they fight just the same, or get the hell slammed out of them.”
“The real hero is the man who fights even though he’s scared. Some gets over the fright in a minute, under fire; others take an hour; for some it takes days; but a real man will never let the fear of death overpower his honour, his sense of duty, to his country and to his manhood.”
Patton’s speech sounds much like what a Sunday Adeyemo ‘Igboho’; an Amotekun marshal; a Boko Haram commander or Myetti Allah promoter; a Niger Delta militant or a firebrand of the Eastern Nigeria Security Network say now to inflate and charge Nigeria to boiling point. But what about our lives later?
Patton died in 1945. History has already acquinted us with how the World War II ended. It was not really how Gen. Patton envisaged. Most of the soldiers he inflated wrongly, died miserably in the conflicts.
Interestingly, less than two decades after, a commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army had a different understanding of another war.
Only oppressors excel during war. Even fighters in the theatre of war as well, the people who monger it and the masses on all sides of the conflict suffer.
Once on March 31, 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson, the then president of the United States shocked the world and people of his country by declaring that he was not going to seek re-election because of his regret that an acrimonious war raged on between his nation and Vietnam under his reign and intends to continue into another period of his presidency. He moaned the disastrous consequence of the crisis and the unlikelihood of its imminent end. Apprehensive of the fact that such avoidable carnage would fester under his stewardship, he refused to stand for another election.
President Johnson’s words: “Many men-on both sides of the struggle will be lost. A nation that has already suffered 20 years of warfare will suffer once again. Armies on both sides will take new casualties. And the war will go on. There is no need for this to be so.”
I am not a pacifist but I find no need for the war even if the war alerts have genuine reasons. We must resist the lure to damnation and national suicide. Before we cut our nose to spite our face, let’s pause to ponder the likely outcome because nobody can actually project into how a war would end when it begins.
For those who shout: ‘war!’, ‘war!’, ‘war!’, now without pausing to ponder the wider implications and overarching impact mood of doom and gloom such an aierial energy of negative speech breeds in the land, there is the need to know that a consternation of such ideas dampen not brighten the clime. It droops the psyche of citizens and casts a dark metaphysical cloak on the nation. Do we have to wonder why wisdom, patience, sense of the good of all and deep knowledge seem to elude us? Why not, in a clime of negative currents? Words have physical forms. They take life of their own. We may be inviting doom with our tongues without knowing.
Surely, our nation like our democracy in Nigeria is in danger. We may be unfortunate by the choices we have made or by what providence put on us.
Things are heading from bad to worse. Our tragic paradox is further messed up by the fact that the leading elite and the led seem not near a concrete resolution of the puzzle. Everybody just drops his verbal bomb, caring less of the land. But no matter how terrible things are, war is no solution. We saw Somalia go ‘burst’ 30 years ago and Libya, 10 year ago. They have not recovered. Even Liberia and Sierra Leone have not come back to. Do we want that for Nigeria?
Solutions may appear rare or far-fetched but it be that the effective ones are just too simple that we ignore them. A more healthy social engagement between faiths, ethnicities, the leaders and the followers as well as a conscious evolvement of a national communication regimen that it is planned to permeate through grassroots in a bottom-up approach can save us and our Nigeria.
Most importantly, we need leaders who see war from the viewpoint of President Johnson and would do anything positive and prompt to avoid presiding over a war-turn Nigeria.
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